Ballet Royal de la Nuit

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Title page of the Ballet de la Nuit from a manuscript copy by Jean de Cambefort, in the Philidor Collection

Ballet de la Nuit (Ballet of the Night) is a ballet by Jean-Baptiste Boësset, Jean de Cambefort, and Michel Lambert featuring music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. It is ballet de cour, premiered February 23, 1653 at the Salle du Petit-Bourbon. It took 13 hours to perform and debuted fourteen year old Louis XIV as Apollo, the Sun King (Le Roi Soleil). The ballet was the subject of the Oxford Dance Symposium in 2004, and there is an extensive study of the work by a group of scholars.[1]

Plot and music outline[edit]

Ballet de la Nuit was divided into four parts providing detailed elements of the landscape of the night. Composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, it was an extravagant court spectacle featuring forty-five entrees, three ballets within a ballet over the course of twelve hours. The plot included mythological goddesses such as Venus and Diana, werewolves, demonic creatures and witches who celebrated a black Sabbath in the horrors of the night. Shepherds, gypsies, thieves, lamplighters, beggars and crippled are among the “realistic” characters of the play. King Louis XIV appears with the coming of the day as the sun god Apollo, one of his many personifications as the rising sun, emphasizing the power of the monarchy and its closeness to the divine.[2]


Henri de Gissey (c. 1621–73), Dessinateur ordinaire du Cabinet du Roy, was in charge of dress design for the royal ballets. A collection of 10 scenic and 117 costume designs for the ballet made for Louis Hesselin (1602-1662) and attributed to Gissey are now at Waddesdon Manor. Another folio with 119 costume designs made for Denis-Pierre-Jean Papillon de la Ferté (1727-1794) is now in Paris at the Bibliothèque de l'Institut (MS 1004).


There is one scene from Ballet Royal de la Nuit in the historical movie Le Roi danse (scene used in this movie is from the end of ballet, called The sun rise, fr. Le Roi représentant le soleil levant).

Ballet de la Nuit in facsimile[edit]

In 2004, the annual Oxford Dance Symposium organised by Michael Burden and Jennifer Thorp was devoted to the Ballet de la Nuit. The symposium met at Waddesdon Manor, where the volume of stage and costumes designs with the arms of Louis Hesselin on the cover is held. It also met at Oxford on the same day, where papers were given on many aspects of the ballet. Michael Burden and Jennifer Thorp subsequently published a volume Le Ballet de la Nuit: Rothschild B1/16/6 with the Pendragon Press in New York. The essays in the volume are: Michael BurdenLe Ballet de la Nuit’; David Parrott: ‘Art, Ceremony and Performance: Cardinal Mazarin and Cultural Patronage at the Court of Louis XIV’; Catherine Massip: ‘The Musical Context of Le Ballet de la Nuit’; and Jennifer Thorp: ‘Dances and Dancers in Le Ballet de la Nuit’. It was introduced by Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild. The volume also includes all the surviving sources for the ballet, including a facsimile of the livret, a reproduction of the scenography from Rothschild B1/16/6, and a modern edition of the surviving music by Lionel Sawkins. This was the first Ballet de Cour to be published in complete form.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Burden and Jennifer Thorp, Le Ballet de la Nuit: Rothschild B1/16/6, 2010
  2. ^ Susan Au,Ballet and Modern Dance, second edition


  • Michael Burden and Jennifer Thorp (2010). Le Ballet de la Nuit: Rothschild B1/16/6. New York: Pendragon.
  • Apollo's Angels A history of Ballet by Jennifer Homans 2010

External links[edit]

Waddesdon Manor the ballet livret, costumes and scenery